House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Monday he’s “optimistic” that Democrats will take back the House.
Hoyer cited his party’s stance on issues like immigration reform and unemployment insurance as one reason for his rosy outlook. The Democratic leader said his party’s candidate recruitment coupled with the declining GOP brand, would help his party with their uphill goal.
“All of those combined, in my view, give me great optimism we’re going to win back the House, and we’re well positioned to do so. Good candidates, good money, good atmosphere, we’re on the right side of the issues from the American public’s perspective,” he told reporters Monday at a roundtable in his Capitol Hill office.
Democrats need to pick up 17 seats to win back the House, a difficult task in any election year but particularly challenging in a midterm year, when the party in the White House historically loses seats.
There’s been waning confidence within the party in recent weeks over the likelihood of such an outcome in November. Florida Democratic House candidate Alex Sink, running in a special election next month, said outright last week that it wouldn’t happen.
But Hoyer compared the current outlook for Democrats picking up the House to the seeming inevitability of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) becoming the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2016, a prospect that was punctured with damaging revelations emerging last month, surrounding his administration’s role in acts of political retribution in the state.
“Today’s truth becomes tomorrow’s of course not,” he said.
Hoyer, in fact, predicted Sink would win her race in a district held by the late Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) for more than three decades — and that if she did, it would be a bellwether for the fall elections.
“I think Sink is going to win, and I think she’s going to win because she’s in ‘sync,’ if you will, pun intended, with the district. She reflects their approach,” he said, because she’s a conservative Democrat.
“I don’t think that’s true of the current candidate down there, and I don’t know if people in Florida want a lobbyist who lobbied for off-shore drilling, in Florida, as their representative,” he said, a knock on Republican David Jolly, whose lobbying background has been the central focus of Democratic attacks.
But, Hoyer argued that if Sink doesn’t end up winning — a distinct possibility, as polls both public and private have shown a tight race — “that’s not a really big deal” because Republicans currently hold the district.
“But if we take it, it’s a big deal,” he said, admitting that districts like Florida’s 13th are the kinds that Democrats need to take back the majority this fall.
Democrats are fighting an uphill battle in many competitive districts like that one, where polling has shown voters are dissatisfied with the health care reform law and unhappy with President Obama.
Hoyer admitted Americans are “right” to be dissatisfied with the pace of economic progress but brushed off the suggestion, however, that Obama could be a drag on some of the party’s candidates.
“I think the public is not too happy with anyone. And they’re not too happy because they still see the economy struggling, much slower job growth than they want…so the public says, ok, maybe things are getting better but not good enough, and they’re right,” he said.
He added: “But the president is a very good communicator. I think he’s going to work hard, and I think the American public is going to respond.”
Hoyer suggested that voters would ultimately focus more on individual candidates than the president.
“They’re going to respond both negatively to a [Republican] party that they see as deeply divided and negative, and has been the party of no and obstruction, and to a party that is on its side in terms of opportunity in terms of action,” he said.
And he, like many other Democratic leaders, predicted that ObamaCare, despite its rocky rollout, would ultimately be a “positive” for Democrats this cycle.
"I think every month it's going to get better and better. It is improving in access, more people are aware of the benefits that are available under the Affordable Care Act, and more and more people are finding out that they have better options at lower prices," said Hoyer. "I think every month’s going to get better. I think the program’s going to work. I think it's going to be good for the American people, and as a result, I think it's going to be a positive, not a negative."
But Republicans weren’t fazed by Hoyer’s comments. National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Dan Scarpinato suggested his optimism indicated he’s out of touch with Americans outside of Washington.
“If Steny Hoyer got out of the beltway once in a while he’d know that Americans are suffering more and more from the impacts of Obamacare and have zero interest in putting the political party that brought us that law back in total control of Washington,” he said.
--This post was updated at 5:20 p.m.